A former general manager of Market Street Diner has been charged with stealing more than $180,000 from her employer, including purchasing items for her Wisconsin Candle Company store.

Debra Riphahn-Vera, 54, of Monona, was charged in Dane County Circuit Court with theft in a business setting over $10,000, theft-false representation over $10,000 and theft-moveable property over $10,000.

A $500 signature bond was set for Riphahn-Vera at a May 13 Initial Appearance hearing.

Riphahn-Vera was general manager of the downtown Sun Prairie restaurant, bakery and catering business from May 7, 2008, until Jan. 1, 2016.

According to the criminal complaint, Food Fight Restaurant Group, that owns the diner, noticed that deposits were not being made at the Bank of Sun Prairie, and others were late during the last week of December 2015.

When Food Fight’s chief financial officer contacted Riphahn-Vera on Dec. 31, 2015, she said she did not to know where the deposits were and claimed she lost them and had no other explanation for the missing cash deposits.

Riphahn-Vera is accused of stealing from the business three ways, according to the criminal complaint, including $18,281 in cash in the final week of her employment.

She also is charged with $9,578 theft using a “charge-back” system between September 2014-November 2015, to purchase items with a credit card or direct billing to Market Street Diner, including glasses, metal tins and paper shopping bags for her business, the Wisconsin Candle Company on East Main Street in Sun Prairie. The company relocated to Waunakee in 2017.

Investigators reported that Riphahn-Vera shipped some of the items she bought from ULINE and another business supply company to her Wild Iris Street home in Sun Prairie. She then turned in fraudulent invoices to the Market Street Diner and was paid, Sun Prairie Police reported.

According to the criminal complaint, Riphahn-Vera also stole money using accounts receivable checks from the diner’s bakery and catering operations to cover up for the cash thefts from the daily restaurant deposits.

Shortly before the discovery of the thefts, the Food Fight Restaurant Group executives encouraged Riphahn-Vera to hire a bookkeeper to assist in the day-to-day financial record keeping. The bookkeeper told police that she got the deposits ready but Riphahn-Vera had full control of the money.

A status conference in the court case is scheduled for June 3.

According to the criminal complaint, Riphahn-Vera is known by five other names: Debra L. Kahn, Debra Smelcer, Debra L. Vera, Debra Thao, and Debra Kiemde.

Debra Riphahn-Vera, charged as Debra Smelcer, was found guilty in 2009 of issuing worthless checks and misappropriating ID to obtain money. She was on probation until March 2014 as part of a plea agreement.

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